With a 7-0 sweep over Washington State in Ojai, Calif., today, the Stanford women’s tennis team officially brought its regular season to a close. The No. 31 Cougars (18-6, 6-4 Pac-12) were no match for No. 5 Stanford, who surrendered only one set all day. The meeting, rescheduled after a rainout on March 25, cemented the Cardinal as co-champions of the Pac-12, alongside No. 4 USC (20-3, 9-1). Apart from 2009, Stanford (18-1, 9-1) has taken at least a portion of the conference championship every year since 1987.
Stanford captured the doubles point first and continued to roll with six straight singles victories. Junior Stacey Tan was the first to finish with a decisive 6-0, 6-0 blow to her opponent, Ksenia Googe, as junior Mallory Burdette followed in suit with a shutout victory over Washington State’s Elisabeth Fournier. Sophomore Nicole Gibbs, freshman Ellen Tsay, senior Veronica Li and junior Natalie Dillon all contributed wins as well.
“Today we had to take care of business,” said head coach Lele Forood. “And we did. We had a really good performance.”
Forood acknowledged that, despite finishing the regular season as Pac-12 co-champions, Stanford has suffered some uphill battles.
“We are not healthy,” Forood said. “[Sophomore Kristie Ahn] is still not available, but we’re optimistic about getting her back for NCAAs and she’s been working incredibly hard. Even [sophomore Amelia Herring] has been injured and had to have a procedure on her wrist.”
That leaves the Cardinal with six healthy players, the number required for each match.
“Our backs have been against the wall,” Forood said, “but this group is very resilient and has done a great job.”
Luckily for Stanford, Herring will return for the Pac-12 invitational draw this weekend. All of her teammates, apart from Ahn, the defending champion of the Pac-10 tournament, will participate in singles, doubles or both at the tournament.
The women’s singles draw will consist of 32 players, and the doubles draw will include 16 teams.
Gibbs, who has manned court one for Stanford all season, will appear in the main draw, along with teammates Burdette, Tan and Tsay. When asked who her toughest opponents will be, she pointed to none other than the ones she practices against every day.
“First and foremost, [Burdette] and my other teammates,” she said. “It’s very uniquely difficult to play someone on your team. You’re so used to it being a support system, and there are certain internal pressures associated with playing the other girls. We have to do it all the time though, so whatever happens, it’s not the end of the world to win or lose. I just want to improve with each match and put myself in the best situation for NCAAs.”
Forood added to Gibbs’ sentiment.
“It’s not like they stop talking to their teammates,” Forood laughed. “They’re kept in separate quarters, so they wouldn’t meet each other until the semifinals anyway. It certainly happens, though, and everyone handles it very well.”
After this weekend, Stanford will have almost two weeks until the start of NCAAs. Although not confirmed, Forood hinted that an exhibition match against the USTA’s top juniors is in the works for May 2.
“It gives us our only competition in the period between Pac-12 and NCAAs,” Forood said. “And quite frankly, it gives me the chance to see the top juniors.”
Gibbs, who trained with the USTA program for many years, thinks that such a match would be beneficial in helping the players remain sharp during the time off.
“These are players that I trained with, so it’s fun to see who will go pro, and who are viable options to recruit at Stanford,” she said. “I think that it would be a fun exhibition match to tune us up.”
Stanford will also put to good use its own depth in the time between Pac-12s and NCAAs.
“We made some changes to the way we practice after playing USC and UCLA two weekends ago,” Gibbs said. “We’re trying to get more focus and drive instilled during practice and everyone’s been doing a good job. Tons of fitness, too. We need to start getting ready for that Georgia weather.”
In the meantime, the Cardinal players will take the courts of the Ojai Valley Athletic Club today. The singles and doubles finals will be held on Sunday starting at 10:30 a.m. at Libbey Park.